Told I Cannot Get Promoted Because I Am Not a Good Speaker


Just had this discussion with my boss, during the year-end review and I was up for promotion this year. He just said he pushes for me etc but I am not yet ready because I am not a good orator/speaker.

I don't disagree that I am not the best of speakers but at the same time I didn't realize that was a requirement to get to VP.

1) If it makes sense to move on
2) Even if I do move on, I obviously want to improve on my "soft skills". Where should I start?

Comments (20)

Most Helpful
Oct 18, 2019 - 1:29am

Broadly speaking, there are 2 kinds of great speakers: 1) those with great speaking skills, either natural or learned, and 2) those who have complete command (deep and abiding knowledge) of the topic at hand.

It's a complicated business you're in. Over time you will become more and more fluent just from deeper understanding and you'll eventually be able to speak without notes and with high fluency in meetings.

Obviously, there's Toastmasters and the like, but what I advocate the most for most people with poor speaking skills is really working on your command of the material--pre-meeting preparation, pre-phone call preparation, general industry knowledge that helps you understand your own role better, etc. And also making a conscious effort to avoid "like", "ya know", "uh and "um." Remove those words and you'll go from a 2 out of 10 on the speaking scale to a 5.

Oct 18, 2019 - 2:02pm

If OP is a 3rd year associate, I assume that he or she has a pretty damn good understanding of the material by now. In fact, I would argue that their understanding is likely better than the MD's most of the time as they aredigging through the details of the deal.

I think it's more this: "And also making a conscious effort to avoid "like", "ya know", "uh and "um." Remove those words and you'll go from a 2 out of 10 on the speaking scale to a 5."

In fact, I would say that some of this advice is quite the opposite of reality. Sure, having an understanding of something helps in any conversation, but it's absolutely amazing to me how many MDs are extremely well spoken but don't have a firm grasp of the underlying material. Being well-spoken takes you a long way, even if you're clueless.

Oct 18, 2019 - 2:56pm

This is great advice. I also feel your pain. When I was an Associate, I got similar feedback. I had a tendancy to speak way too fast. As an Associate, it was percieved as "good energy", but as a VP they want more gravitas.
I actually went out to some improv classes (I really had to carve out that half hour a week at dinner time - and I never told anyone). I know it sounds weird, but it was actually really helpful. To speak in an environment of strangers on random topics made me more comfortable hearing my own voice out loud in a semi-public setting (on topics I wasn't super solid on).
Another suggestion is attend your company's firm wide meetings. I started borrowing language from other teams to sound much smarter than I actually was. When we did client calls, I would borrow language from the senior bankers I was working with for how to describe opportunities. Mirroring the people you are working with is a good way to get up to speed fast. Fake it 'til you make it.

Oct 18, 2019 - 8:48am

there is an organization called ToastMasters where they teach public speaking to people who have difficulty with it. I've been to a few really helps...and its a very safe place to will see other people with similar problems...and how they overcome them.

i strongly suggest you go to a meeting...its free to try...and actually a nice experience.
Also recommend when its your turn, you participate. Remember, public speaking is not about content...its about delivery.

just google're welcome
Oct 18, 2019 - 8:59am

In my experience, biggest thing in public speaking is confidence. Some people are gifted orators, others have learned it, and others just aren't great at it. Toastmasters is a good suggestion, but I really agree with real_Skankhunt42 here on knowing the material, it is the easiest path to confidence and thus improved public speaking. At the very least it will cut out the fillers in your speech, making you seem much more knowledge and confident and as a result, coming off a a better public speaker. I'm not the most social guy by any stretch and you would never know it, but public speaking is one of my strengths for this exact reason. I dont really enjoy doing it and I am by no means a natural at it, but I do really well because I always make sure I know the material I'm speaking on. Command of the material, command of the room.

Oct 18, 2019 - 9:00am

read books and join toastmasters
the ability to speak well trumps a whole lot of shit in life


Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.
Oct 18, 2019 - 9:38am

Funny how a guy giving tips on speaking well writes rambling shit on his blog.
Although tbh, I enjoy reading your blog while travelling around on short trips. I've recommended it to friends for quality shitposts.

GoldenCinderblock: "I keep spending all my money on exotic fish so my armor sucks. Is it possible to romance multiple females? I got with the blue chick so far but I am also interested in the electronic chick and the face mask chick."
Oct 18, 2019 - 10:36am

I speak stupid eloquently if we're being honest. I'm also a very good chameleon. Hood people like me and so do Vineyard Vines fuccbois. Goldie has a lot going for him. Glad you like my shit, homie.


Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.
Oct 18, 2019 - 12:58pm
  1. If he's being honest with you, I don't think its time to move on. In other words, regardless of whether it's reasonable for VPs to be presenters, if your boss does legitimately believe that your lack of presentation skill is the reason you're not ready yet, then I think that's a healthy working relationship. Where it becomes a problem is when your boss is using a fake reason as a cover for some other BS reason for not promoting you.

I once worked at an asset manager where the same reason (presentation ability) was always the off-the-shelf reason for not promoting someone. It was a very dishonest place and the firm didn't want to actually tell people why they weren't being promoted. Because often the truth was, someone wasn't being promoted because they were too much of a free thinker. Firm had a very questionable investment philosophy and those who questioned it were blackballed. But firm could never admit that, so they just told you that you were a weak presenter.

So figure out what the truth is by addressing the weakness and seeing what happens. If your boss is being honest with this feedback, he'll also be very appreciative to see you take action on the feedback. So you work to address it and let him know in a couple months and if he's encouraged by that, its a good sign he's being fair with you.

  1. I've heard Toastmasters is a very good solution for this. Haven't done it myself but I know many who say its fun and effective.
Oct 18, 2019 - 3:45pm
  1. Toastmasters will help as it will force you to make speeches frequently.
  2. I also highly recommend literally making toasts at gatherings. Start at safe places with friends. DInner party, make a toast to to the host. Birthday party, make a toast. Be brief. You'll gain confidence. You don't have to be contrived or clever, just sincere - "Here's to Mike and Mary for bringing us all together tonight. Love you guys!" Trust me, you'll gain confidence.
  3. Say more with less. Knowing the material is key, but knowing how to use your knowledge impactfully is powerful. Highlights. Nobody wants to be dragged through minutia. The MDs may appear to know less, but they don't. They are just skilled at synthesizing the info and getting the key points across efficiently. That's true with most leaders,
Oct 19, 2019 - 6:38am

I'd argue that point 3 is the most important aspect when talking about presentation skills for senior positions. The ability to quickly summarise complex issues and communicate them effectively to the underlings is what makes a good manager.

Oct 21, 2019 - 10:39am

I also suggest toastmasters. This is both fair feedback, hugely relevant for any business role, and fixable. Don't give up yet. If it's an issue at your current firm it will probably be one at a new firm too.

Your speaking skills probably lack in one of three areas:

  1. You come off as "off-base" or not educated on subject materials
  2. Your logic structure and flow are hard to follow or not clear enough
  3. Tone and delivery are not engaging or professional

The first one probably means you need more education. The last two are definitely workable and toastmasters can help.

Oct 21, 2019 - 8:02pm
Start Discussion

Total Avg Compensation

September 2020 Investment Banking

  • Director/MD (17) $704
  • Vice President (45) $323
  • Associates (255) $228
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (37) $203
  • 2nd Year Analyst (141) $153
  • Intern/Summer Associate (133) $141
  • 1st Year Analyst (561) $129
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (544) $82

Leaderboard See all

Jamoldo's picture
LonLonMilk's picture
Secyh62's picture
CompBanker's picture
Addinator's picture
redever's picture
Edifice's picture
frgna's picture
NuckFuts's picture
bolo up's picture
bolo up